Local company to pick up city’s trash can dilemma

Visalia-based ag recycler AZS Dependable Inc. will recycle 30,000 decommissioned trash cans for a fraction of original estimates

By Reggie Ellis

VISALIA – The city of Visalia’s inability to recycle 30,000 decommissioned trash cans became national news before it caught the attention of a local company who is happy to help. 

Public works manager Jim Ross told the Visalia City Council on Jan. 6 that increased media attention of the wasteland of waste containers stored on the west side of its Water Reclamation Facility garnered national media attention thanks to coverage by local newspapers and TV stations. 

Our little town of Visalia made it to national trade journal on recycling,” Ross said. “We had 15-20 recycling companies call us expressing interest in the material, which was fantastic.”

Ross had previously reported to the city council on Dec. 16 that his department had received three proposals to reuse, recycle or dispose of the cans. That list is just one now after Ross said the city had selected a local agriculture plastics recycling company’s proposal.

“The proposal by AZS Dependable Inc. was determined to be the most beneficial to the city,” Ross said. “They propose to transport the material to their warehouse in Visalia’s Industrial Park, where they will disassemble the cans, shred the segregated material, and sell the resin for remanufactured products.”

Ross said AZS Dependable Inc. is able to recycle the material and has a market for it. The company’s fee is $51,085 and City staff are working with them on the timeline of the project. 

“That’s a whole lot better than $350,000 estimate to grind it and take to a landfill [ourselves],” Ross said.

When the city issued its initial request for proposals to over 75 companies in July, not one submitted a bid to recycle the cans and only one bid was submitted to haul the cans to a landfill. Due to the $472,000 price tag to dispose of them, Ross recommended the council reject the bid and hold onto the trash cans until they can be recycled or removed from the site. To date, the city has spent $5.75 million on the conversion of its waste cans, about $500,000 over its initial estimate.

Ross even reached out to other cities to take the containers, provided samples to potential recyclers, consulted with state recycling officials, hosted site visits with recycling firms and even tried giving them away, but no one was interested.

The thousands of 96-gallon cans are the last remnants of the city’s conversion from trash cans split between refuse and recyclables to a three-can system giving every resident a large can each for recycling, refuse and green waste. The city was only able to convert 10,000 of the 40,000 split cans in use by residents to single use cans during the shift last spring. The remaining 30,000 dumped across 5 acres at the Water Reclamation Facility.

Ross said the problem is a combination of the material of which they are made and the void left in the global recycling market. Like most plastics, the trash cans are made from polyethylene. The material is recyclable but only when it is separated into high- and medium-density versions.

The can is a blend of the two, making it difficult to breakdown as the two have different melting temperatures. Even if it was usable, there is no one to take the material. Ross said China decided to begin limiting its purchase of other country’s recycled material in 2018, leaving cities without the world’s largest and most consistent buyer of recyclables.

“Though the conversion process is complete, disposal of the decommissioned split cans remains an outstanding issue,” shared Ross. “Over the past year the recycling industry suffered a catastrophic blow as China severely constrained their practices in regard to acquisition of recyclable plastic, and the bottom virtually fell out of the recycling market as a result. What was once a valuable commodity became a growing liability.”

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